COLUMBIA, SC (WIS) - Higher tax at the gas pumps is slated to be spent on road safety, including highway improvements designed to curb the number of fatal crashes in South Carolina. WIS is tracking what the first $50 million of those tax dollars would buy.
In Richland County, a 'Rural Roads Safety Program' means modifications to 13 miles of Garners Ferry Road. The Department of Transportation (SCDOT) says their priority by making safety enhancements to roads like this, is to keep vehicles on the road and give them an opportunity to get back on the road after veering off.
SCDOT reports that 45 percent of fatal crashes in 2017 in the state happened when a vehicle left the road, and 81% of those fatalities happened when a vehicle hit a fixed object, like a tree.
Richland County Coroner Gary Watts says drives veering off the road is an issue.
"You have an internal collision, where your organs then crash up against your body and are moved around," Watts says.
The plan for a 'Rural Roads Safety Program' would be implemented in phases. Phase I includes adjustments like rumble strips, guardrails, and wider shoulder for these highways:
- US 76 (Garners Ferry Road) in Richland County
- US 76 and US 521 in Sumter County
- US 17 and SC 61 in Charleston County
- SC 90 and SC 22 and US 701 in Horry County
- US 321 and US 17 in Jasper County
Watts believes anything to keep drivers on the road and lessen the fatalities could be worth the investment.
"So, anything you can do to keep the vehicle on the roadway and keep people restrained in the vehicle, the better chances of surviving the crash," he says.
The SCDOT Commission must first vote the project forward officially before work begins. There's a public comment period of 21 days where drivers can voice their opinions on the project ahead of the vote.